Pielech Will Step Down as Belmont County Senior Services Director
Dwayne Pielech is planning to step down as Belmont County Senior Services director, having accomplished his goal of helming the agency through its adjustment to a new building, modernizing services and maintaining the confidence of senior clients through a difficult time.
Since he took the position in late winter 2020, it fell on Pielech to lead the agency during much of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Right as the pandemic was starting, I had a lot of goals and things (the commissioners) wanted me to accomplish, and I’m very happy,” he said.
Staff duties were altered or repurposed to continue to provide services and comfort to seniors as the 10 senior centers were shut down. Transportation and meal preparation and delivery also did not stall.
“We successfully produced and distributed last year 260,000 hot meals delivered to people’s homes,” he said, adding that computers were placed in all the delivery trucks. “We were successful in managing the department through the pandemic, making sure not only we didn’t have an outbreak at the agency, which would have disrupted many of our services like our kitchen and our medical driver program, but our seniors.”
Pielech said the county will not be paying him retirement funds, and he is not retiring but will resume work in the private sector.
“I really appreciate the opportunity to work with (the county) to get them through the pandemic and working with the many good people in the department,” Pielech said.
He added the Belmont County Board of Commissioners already has started the interview process to find his replacement. Pielech said the next challenge will be to keep the staff and seniors healthy and safe.
“Any problems that the pandemic could pose internally could possibly disrupt our services, and 1,200 people a day depend on our lunches and we can’t take the risk of jeopardizing that,” he said, adding that meal deliveries also double as safety checks. “The pandemic’s going to continue to pose challenges going forward.”
Another challenge will be expanding services to the seniors whenever possible. He added the next generation of seniors may have different preferences for activities, such as managing a computer. Other seniors may need help arranging to get blood work done or to gain direct services.
“Five to 10 years from now, we might need to evolve. Today we’re doing 1,200 meals a day, we transport people for doctors’ appointments, we have 10 great seniors centers. … Where do we need to be in 5-10 years?” he said.
The commissioners are interviewing candidates for the director’s position.
“Dwayne’s done a very good job,” Commissioner J.P. Dutton said. “It has not been ordinary times since Dwayne started. He’s done a phenomenal job.”
There are no immediate plans to select a new director.
“It’s really early in the process,” Dutton said.
There has been some rumor that senior services will merge with the county Department of Job and Family Services.
“It’s come up in discussions from time to time,” Dutton said, adding there are no concrete plans for a merger.
In the Nov. 2 election, the county’s voters will decide whether to pass a 1-mill levy for senior services. Pielech said there is no reason to fear the levy funds could be spent on anything except senior services.
“This levy represents 40 percent of the annual budget. This levy’s vital to the operation of this agency,” Pielech said. “It’s very restrictive on how that money can be spent. It merely has to be spent on the betterment of seniors to keep them in their home. The voters of Belmont County have always been very supportive of this levy. … There’s a lot of good things going on that this levy funds.”
“We have one of the finest senior service programs in the state of Ohio,” Dutton said. “We have a lot to be proud of in our senior services programs, and that has a lot to do with the levies that are supported by the residents of Belmont County.”